Saturday, November 01, 2008

The Protestant Reformation and a Personal Note

October 31 -- for me Reformation Day -- is one of my favorite holidays, and normally I would have written something yesterday. Unfortunately, other commitments kept me from doing any blogging. This is what I wrote a year ago:

On this date 490 years ago, Martin Luther nailed his 95 Theses on the church door at Wittenburg. The event began a remarkable theological and ecclesiastical battle across Europe, but it was also a culmination of a great spiritual and intellectual crisis in the heart and mind of Rev. Luther.

For years he had struggled with the concept of the righteousness of God. That was a biblical concept that terrified Luther, who realized that a God who is perfectly righteous might not be prone to look very favorably on those of us who fall far short of the same. Luther sometimes spent hours in confession and returned to his room at the monastery to flagellate himself over his sins. Eventually, however, he realized that the righteousness of God is not merely the righteousness that God demands. It is also the righteousness that God provides freely by His grace through faith alone. Luther was liberated by that realization, and so have many of us been liberated who have followed in his steps.

I once told someone who asked me why I go to church that I do so because I am a hypocrite -- those of you who don't go to church because of all the hypocrites may have me in mind. More often than I care to admit, I fall far short of what I know I am supposed to be. I don't live up to the things that I believe. Don't get me wrong: I am not a contented hypocrite. I wish that I were better than I am, and look forward to the day when I will be.

In the meantime, in Christ I find that there is hope even for people like me. God demands a righteousness that I do not have. Yet, the One who knew no sin died for mine and freely gave to me the gift of righteousness. In that alone I find hope.

Three weeks after I wrote that, I was involved in a serious car accident. I was lifeflighted to a hospital about 70 miles from the rural area where I rolled my car. I was not in that much pain, but I did fear that I might possibly bleed to death before I got to the hospital. For most of the flight, I just closed my eyes and prayed. The prayer was not a desperate plea to live, but a meditation on the fact that my only hope was not in myself or any good I could claim, but in Jesus Christ, who lived perfectly, died for my sins, and gave to me his gift of righteousness.

I was and am grateful for the strength I found during that time. I would commend to readers the comfort found in that message of grace.


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